The Power of Narrative: Telling True Stories in Turbulent Times
It looks like the longest-running narrative journalism conference is making a point of spotlighting great female journalists and writers this year. The speakers include author Roxane Gay, Huffington Post editor Lydia Polgreen, Boston Globe Spotlight reporter Sacha Pfeiffer and The New York Times’ Emily Steel. (The website has this cool tidbit: “After breaking the story of Bill O’Reilly’s history of sexual harassment, New York Times reporter Emily Steel told an interviewer that she was inspired by Sacha Pfeiffer, of The Boston Globe, for Pfeiffer’s work exposing sexual abuse by priests.” And a couple of workshops bought my eye: “Writing the Investigation: You don’t have to be Johnny Cash to get rhythm” and “Writing to Climax: How to build narrative momentum in nonfiction when the reader already knows what’s going to happen.” Here’s the full schedule.
Registration is open, with rates of $50 for BU students, $150 for BU alumni and non-BU students, and tiered pricing of $325 until January 30th and $375 afterward for all others.
Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting
Graduate School of Journalism
This conference isn’t about literary journalism per se, but it offers tools for investigative journalists (many of whom use the techniques of narrative to unspool their stories). Its website says, “The only symposium of its kind in the country, it routinely brings together a veritable ‘who’s who’ of top journalists, law enforcement and government officials to address the critical issues confronting this specialized field. The symposium also unites media executives involved in both non-profit and commercial outlets, as well as media attorneys, academics, major foundations, and philanthropists who support journalism in the public interest.” The symposium is by invitation only; the site advises that to request an invitation code, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Once you get the code, go here to register.
River Teeth Nonfiction Conference
This conference is put on by the nonfiction narrative journal River Teeth, which is “dedicated to the simple premise that good writing counts and that facts matter.” Yes! A mantra for 2018, perhaps? This year’s event will have two days of panel presentations, keynote readings and optional one-on-one essay or book-length manuscript consultations with panelists. Featured guest speakers will be Andre Dubus III, the author of “House of Sand and Fog,” and Angela Morales, author of “The Girls in My Town.” The website says of the event, “The conference generally draws 50-60 participants which makes for a personalized but rich experience.”
THREAD at Yale: Storytelling in Modern Media
Yale Journalism Initiative
New Haven, Connecticut
THREAD at Yale is an offshoot of the Yale Journalism Initiative (YJI). I like this line on the site: “Unlike some other journalists’ gatherings, there is no preference for ‘mid-career’ applicants. We don’t care about your age or your level of experience, just your enthusiasm.” It calls itself a gathering for storytellers with a difference: “First, we care deeply about narrative journalism, but we don’t care if it’s on paper, on a computer screen, on the radio, downloaded as a podcast, in photographs, or streaming as video. These distinctions mean nothing. Our faculty have been selected for their diversity of work across platforms. Second, THREAD is neither a conference, where you hear lectures, nor a workshop, where your work receives close, personal attention. Instead, it is both. Mornings and evenings, everyone gathers to hear reflections from esteemed practitioners. Afternoons, attendees break into small groups, with faculty, to go over every individual’s piece.” The tuition fee of $1,895 includes program materials, welcome reception, drink vouchers for nightly gatherings and all-day refreshments. Information about applications is here.
Crafting the True Story: An Exploration of Creative Nonfiction
Madeline Island School of the Arts
La Pointe, Wisconsin
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (and very cool person) Jacqui Banaszynski leads an immersive workshop to help writers of all ability levels develop and shape narrative nonfiction. As the site says, “Learn to bring real life to the page with techniques that can make words dance, sentences sparkle and stories soar.” In addition to completing fieldwork, in-class exercises and peer critique, participants will work one-on-one with Banaszynski to develop a work-in-progress and build a plan for future writing. Tuition is $700 for the week.
The Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference: Are You Not Entertained? Real People, Real Stories, Real Storytelling
Frank W. & Sue Mayborn School of Journalism
University of North Texas
The 14th annual conference will, the website proclaims, “demonstrate how, on an every day basis, journalists are addressing the pressure to tell compelling, newsworthy stories that inform and – now, more than ever – entertain. No longer can journalists count on the routine story. They must cast their nets wide, writing about the usual issues – crime, courts and politics – but also athletes, entertainers and internet celebrities.” This year’s lineup hasn’t been announced yet, but Pulitzer Prize-winning Katherine Boo talked at last year’s event. (Read her awesome “15 Rules for Narrative Nonfiction,” from her talk then.) General admission registrations are $425, which includes all sessions, keynotes, meals and refreshment breaks. Information about registering can be found here.
Third Coast Conference
At this audio storytelling festival, the website says, “radio producers, podcasters, journalists, documentarians, audio artists, and students come together, listen to each other’s work, share ideas and expertise. … Sessions and discussions cover the art and craft of audio storytelling, and all include plenty of listening.” For more information, email them at email@example.com.
The Power of Storytelling Conference
Dates haven’t been announced, but it usually happens in late fall
This wonderful yearly event draws a who’s who of literary journalism. Some year I’d like to go myself, but until then I’ve loved reading the transcripts to some top talks. We spotlighted two tremendous ones from last year’s conference on Storyboard: Pulitzer winner Tom French in an amazing feat of storytelling about storytelling. (Read it all the way through. You’ll thank me.) And New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones talks about reporting on racial inequality: “What drives me is rage.”
Other conferences of note:
- ASJA Writers Conference, Austin, Texas. February 3.
- True Stories: Finding your voice within the European narrative tradition. Amsterdam, the Netherlands. April 19-20. Organizer Paulien Bakker says: “Our founding father is Mark Kramer of the Boston conference, and it’ll be our 8th conference, but the first to focus on European traditions in narrative journalism. Previous speakers have been George Packer, Lulu Miller, Jacqui Banaszynski, Amy O’Leary, Dan Menaker, Ted Conover and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc.”
- Literary Journalism: Theory, Practice, Pedagogy, The International Association for Literary Journalism Studies’ annual conference, May 17-19 in Vienna. (I spoke at this last year in Nova Scotia, and it was great to see the intersection of literary journalism and academia. The enthusiasm of the scholars was wonderful.)
- Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference, Pittsburgh, May 24-26.
- The Jackson Hole Writers Conference, which includes a creative nonfiction track, June 28-30.
- Excellence in Journalism 2016, Baltimore, Sept. 27-29.